Both Bette Midler and Macy Gray came under fire on Monday (July 4) for comments that some have deemed anti-trans. Midler, 76, who has supported and courted a large LGBTQ fanbase for decades, appeared to be responding to the Supreme Court’s recent decision overturning abortion rights, but her Independence Day tweet angered a number of commenters who took her to task for language that they felt was demeaning and exclusionary.
“WOMEN OF THE WORLD! We are being stripped of our rights over our bodies, our lives and even of our name!” Midler tweeted a week after the conservative majority Supreme Court overturned the nearly half-century-old Roe v. Wade decision that guaranteed access to abortion. “They don’t call us ‘women’ anymore; they call us ‘birthing people’ or ‘menstruators,’ and even ‘people with vaginas!’ Don’t let them erase you! Every human on earth owes you!”
Author, professor and best-selling author Roxane Gay was one of many commenters taking Midler to task for what she said was the singer’s use of non-inclusive language. “No one is trying to erase women with inclusive language about people who need abortion care,” wrote Gay. “No one is calling you anything but what you prefer. You should extend that courtesy in return.”
Midler is often one of the first and most vocal voices on social media in the wake of major political and social movements and events with her pointed takes, which some commenters said she got wrong this time. “Really disappointed in this as a trans man and a Bette Midler fan,” wrote one. “Bette, including trans men in the conversation about reproductive health does not harm women. We have the same organs, and even greater vulnerability, as cis woman.” A number of the replies noted that “not all people who menstruate are women” and that “trans men need reproductive healthcare” as well.
“You know not all women are ‘birthing people’ and not all birthing people are women?! On the wrong side of history with this one. #TransWomenAreWomen #TransMenAreMen #TransRightsAreHumanRights,” added another.
According to the Los Angeles Times, abortion rights advocates and organizations including Planned Parenthood and the ACLU have begun using more inclusive language to discuss reproductive healthcare in an effort to recognize that trans and nonbinary people also seek such care. “Some of those opposing the use of inclusive language argue that phrases such as ‘pregnant people’ exclude women because the word ‘women’ is not used or that it reduces people to their biology, with some insinuating this ‘erasure’ is just as egregious as denying people their reproductive rights,” the paper reported.
At press time, it did not appear that Midler had responded to the backlash, and a spokesperson for the singer did not respond to Billboard‘s request for comment.
Meanwhile, Gray, 54, stirred similar ire after an appearance on Monday night on British talk-show host Piers Morgan’s TalkTV show, where she claimed that being a woman requires being born with “boobs” and a “vagina.” Her comments came after Morgan commented that “we’re in an era now basically where most public figures are too terrified to say what they think a woman is.”
Gray responded, “I know!” before describing the physical attributes that she believes are necessary to be a woman. “I’d say a human being with boobs. You have to start there. And a vagina!” she said, adding, ‘That’s getting confusing.”
The talk then turned to trans competitors in sports, with Morgan first claiming that he “supports all trans rights to fairness and equality” — which Gray appeared to agree with — before the host said that he is against trans women “born to obvious physical superior bodies… thrashing the women at their sport.”
Gray said she “totally” agreed, while acknowledging that her comments might spark some controversy. “And I will say this and everyone’s gonna hate me, but as a woman, just because you go change your [body] parts, doesn’t make you a woman, sorry … I know that for a fact. Like if you want me to call you a ‘her,’ I will, ‘cause that’s what you want, but that doesn’t make you a woman just ‘cause I call you a ‘her’ and just because you got a surgery.”
At one point, Morgan brought up the intense backlash Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling has faced for her repeated anti-trans screeds, and Gray acknowledged that she expected to face the same ire. “But it’s the truth,” she said. “And I don’t think you should be called transphobic just because you don’t agree with, you know … there’s a lot of judgement and throwing stones at people for just saying what it is.”
As if on cue, Rowling weighed in with a comment that appeared to support Gray’s stance. “Today feels like a good day to ensure I’ve bought @MacyGraysLife’s entire back catalogue,” Rowling tweeted along with a fire emoji.
A spokesperson for Gray had not returned Billboard‘s request for comment at press time.
See Midler’s tweet and Gray’s comments below, as well as some of the responses.
WOMEN OF THE WORLD! We are being stripped of our rights over our bodies, our lives and even of our name! They don’t call us “women” anymore; they call us “birthing people” or “menstruators”, and even “people with vaginas”! Don’t let them erase you! Every human on earth owes you!
— bettemidler (@BetteMidler) July 4, 2022
Better – "birthing people" is an inclusive term, to include our trans brothers and sisters. I know you well enough to know that you choose to be inclusive
— bitchyolympian (@delle59) July 4, 2022
Bad take there, Bette.
— Ann McL 🇺🇦❤️🕊 (@Ann_McL) July 4, 2022
This is a bad take, Bette!!! Not all women have vaginas and not all people with vaginas are women!! Pleas include trans people in your feminism or it means absolutely nothing!
— Bri (a known gay) 🌈💋 (@brirydernyc) July 4, 2022
I didn’t have Macy Gray being a terf on my bingo card fucking yikes ??? cis women are so embarrassing like why the fuck you even care. am i only a woman because of my parts? that’s all we’re limited to? https://t.co/QdssOBXMj7
— McNugget Mami (@_omgigi_) July 5, 2022
what is it about “womanhood” that TERFs like macy gray and bette midler are so desperate to cling to? trans women existing doesn’t make me any less of a woman, no matter how different our experiences may be. it’s just ridiculous at its core honestly.
— Arielle (she/her) (@mrstschinkel) July 5, 2022
macy gray being all transphobic and “a woman is this” when she’s the one who made me feel cool for having a deep voice like a man? damn
— ashley ray (@theeashleyray) July 4, 2022